It's a new kind of start for TNT's Rizzoli & Isles.
Rest assured, having seen the first couple installments, I can say that new showrunner Jan Nash handles this tragedy beautifully with a tribute for both actor and the character he played.
But there's more.
Angie Harmon's Jane Rizzoli also found out at the end of Rizzoli & Isles Season 4 that she was pregnant. Sasha Alexander's Maura had a romantic moment with Jane's brother. And, of course, there are always bad guys to catch.
On a recent visit to the Rizzoli & Isles set in Hollywood, I grabbed some time with both Harmon and Nash to get the lowdown on the new season and why Harmon says this season is by far her favorite.
TV Fanatic: How did you approach the new season because you’ve got something big you have to deal with in the beginning and a lot of other threads from the end of last season.
Jan Nash: Obviously, because I’m new, looking at it where they ended season four in terms of the dramatic things that they’d set up and then also looking at the sort of reality of the end of season four with Lee’s death. There were a few things that were on the table that we felt compelled to deal with in a real, in a meaningful way.
From the dramatic perspective, I’m not a fan of ‘oooh somebody’s pregnant, just kidding’ and so that was the storyline we were given and we wanted to honor that and so we sort of started thinking about putting all of those pieces together. It became clear that we couldn’t do what needed to be done coming out of season four and really deal with it in a good and meaningful way with Lee’s death so that’s the reason we structured the first two episodes the way we did.
So that we could sort of lay a foundation for those stories and then have the death of Barry Frost enter the series and actually be able to deal with it in a way that we all felt like it deserved.
It was very important to Sasha and Angie that, you know, we deal, especially with Lee’s death in a good way, in a respectful way and this is sort of what made sense to all of us.
TVF: Having seen the second episode that deals with Frost’s death, I thought you really honored not just the character but Lee, too, in such a nice, respectful way.
JN: Thank you. It’s a real thing that happened to a group of people. I mean, it was finding that way of sort of having the story come in a way that would tell the story. We’re making a television show but in fact there are real feelings that are underneath it all and try to give that opportunity for all of the actors to have a moment where they can intercept with that loss and to sort of get to the end and hopefully feel not like you’ve been manipulated but that in fact that you’ve had an exploration of grief in a way that is consistent with our experiences in life and how we all felt about the character and for some people, how they felt about the actor.
TVF: What will we see beyond the first two episodes? Will we still hear mentions? Is there going to be somebody kind of coming in to take his place?
JN: I do think that this show is a show that has, historically, had a little bit of a serialized element to it. Jane’s father, Maura’s father, her adoption. Those things are things that have lived in multiple episodes through seasons and so we didn’t feel like it was real either to just drop it and so it will continue to live in moments on a going forward basis. Almost, again, through the season, but again, not in every episode.
TVF: Sasha and Jordan’s characters had that little flirtation last season and we see it pop again in the new season. What can you say to that?
JN: I think for now, we feel like that probably is going to stay the way it is. I think they’re going to have some really nice moments as we go through season five, but we, in fact, do have a story for Sasha as we get into about a third of the way through the season where she meets somebody who is a super nice guy and we go through that process of her meeting somebody and how she responds to that. You know, they are great actors and they actually did a great job both in last season and in with what we gave them this year in terms of sort of saying ah, we’re too close. You know, but we’ll see.
Next up, we grabbed a few minutes with series star Angie Harmon…
TV Fanatic: Based on the first episode back and the fact that Jane is definitely pregnant, is this going to be a more psychological season for her?
Angie Harmon: Jane has gone through a really, really big transformation. I mean, it’s been a lot for her. This has been my favorite season so far just because as an actor, I’ve gotten to do so much more. I mean, obviously with just all the different subject matters and things plus I really enjoy doing scenes with all the other cast members and…it’s Bruce McGill for crying out loud! I mean, it’s Lorraine Bracco and it’s a third generation Bridges. I mean, really.
So it’s been really, really fun not exploring the relationships but just adding to them and then Jane’s, like I said, she’s got a lot going on and so it’s been wonderful kind of watching her deal with that on her own and then how each other person relates to her.
TVF: We know the relationship with Angela is often played for laughs just because she’s the overbearing mom but are we going to see that she does need her mother because of what she’s going through?
AH: A lot. There is actually a moment where Angela kind of puts her foot down and it’s actually to all of us because she’s like, ‘I’m your mother!’ And it’s an interesting thing because I’ve had the same conversations with my daughters. It’s like, ‘yes, I’m your mother, but I’m also a person.’
Having Angela put that down, it’s kind of great because we’re all just sort of like ‘what? Huh? What?’ We’re all used to kind of her just being there for us and just being Mom and I do think we forgot that she’s a person and I do think that we forgot that she’s a beautiful woman and all of those things that we all need and now she gets to embark on them in season five and it’s hilarious because it’s done in that very Boston/mom/Angela way.
It’s wonderful actually watching that relationship between Jane and Angela deepen because Jane’s never needed anyone. She’s very capable. She could do everything on her own. She doesn’t need anyone. She doesn’t want any help. So now for her to need her mom I think is a very, very sweet thing because I have three daughters and I watch them go through it.
TVF: So with Jane’s romantic life…she’s pregnant. She hasn’t told the daddy…
AH: It’s crazy.
TVF: So I’m guessing that’s eventually going to have to come out. I’m guessing.
AH: I don’t want to spoil anything but it’s dealt with, but it is, again, part of her, that inner-turmoil and that journey that she goes on to try and figure out what’s the best path for her and the baby. It’s like a roller coaster.
TVF: What else is going on in the opening of the season? I know they’re heavy episodes to start.
AH: Well, [episodes] one and two, obviously, it was something that we had to address and the rest of the season…like I said, I think it’s the best season yet. I think we’ve all grown as actors, come together as a cast and it’s just a different point of view now. It’s just the girls don’t necessarily have to fight for that friendship anymore. It’s established. It’s done. And so now it’s just all about life’s situations and circumstances and how they all handle it together.
Rizzoli & Isles airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on TNT.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.